Windows Phone 8 handsets

Windows Phone 8 hasn't always been our cup of tea, but its on an upward tick, and now might be the time to buy that Windows Phone. (See also How to update a Windows Phone smartphone.)

We've spent a big time talking about Windows Phone 8 on the Tech Advisor Blog, and we've rarely been entirely complimentary. It's not that there's anything particularly wrong with Microsoft's platform for smartphone, you understand. It's just that in a market that already included iPhone, Android and BlackBerry, Windows Phone 8 offered very little that was new.

Add to that the fact that existing Windows Phone 7 users were left behind with no means of upgrading, and it seemed that even Windows Phone fans would be dissuaded from sticking with Windows. And that meant that the people selling apps and media were less than keen to back the platform. And that in turn meant fewer people buying handsets, and therefore fewer people making handsets and, well, it didn't look great for Windows Phone 8.

But something is stirring in the Windows Phone world. In time to come the fact that everyone but Nokia stopped supporting WP8 may come to be seen as a blessing. Especially now that Microsoft has purchased Nokia's consumer phone business. Nokia has a range of distinctive handsets that offer something for every screen size and price point. And for that reason now be the time to jump aboard the Windows Phone bandwagon. See also: Nokia Lumia 102 preview.

1. Why you should buy a Windows Phone: A stable, secure platform

There was never anything particularly wrong with Windows Phone 8. It was just late to the party, and the launch was miss-managed. There are still relatively few apps in the Windows Phone store, but at the last count it was 190,000. More importantly it is increasingly difficult to find a specific app that should be there and isn't. And anyway the excellent IE 10 (yes, I wrote that) and HTML 5 makes apps less important. The web works well.

2. Why you should buy a Windows Phone: Quality handsets, quality experience

We've yet to test a Windows Phone that offered anything less than decent performance, regardless of the price point. They just work. If you are unsure of the handset you should buy, you can be sure that a Windows Phone is highly unlikely to be a lemon. Not least because these days it is almost certainly going to be made by Nokia, soon to be Microsoft owned.

Nokia offers a full range of solid handsets from 4in to 6in, and from £150 to £600. There's a phone for everyone and they are all decent if not spectacular buys. You can't say the same in either the Android world with its variable quality, or Apple's super premium iPhone lineup in which the budget buy is a two-year-old handset that costs £349.

Nokia phones are well built and perform well. And if you are a Windows user the experience will be familiar and useful in a meaningful way. Windows Phone 8 because a much better deal when you are a regular Windows 8 user. If you use either or both of Xbox or Windows RT so much the better. Having a single log in to access apps and media, as well as email and other communications, is pretty neat.

3. Why you should buy a Windows Phone: Variety in a samey world  

And there's the other thing about the Lumia Windows Phone 8 handsets. They are distinctive. They look different.

The Lumia lineup offers a guarantee of at least a certain quality, but it also guarantees that your friends with me-too iPhones and Androids will ask you what you are toting. Windows Phone 8 offers much the same functionality as do all premium smartphones. But it does so within a series of handsets, and within an interface, that look different to all the others.

It feels odd to say, but in the smartphone world at least Microsoft is the unconventional choice. I know: go figure.

4. Why you should buy a Windows Phone: Business is business

That said, Microsoft hasn't lost its grasp of the mundane. If you run a business with a fleet of phones you have only two sensible options: Windows Phone and BlackBerry.  Why? Because iPhone and Android don't allow for server side updates, data scrubbing and the like. Each individual iPhone or Android handset is its own little network, with all the security issues that entails. If you want to be able to brick a phone when Darren in sales leaves it in the pub, or make sure all company handsets are up to date, you need to choose BlackBerry or Windows Phone.

BlackBerry fans, this is awkward. BlackBerry is very much yesterday's platform. Indeed, I wouldn't be amazed if Microsoft didn't pick some of the juiciest morsels out of the BlackBerry carcass to support its own designs on the enterprise market.

And because it isn't 2003 none of your colleagues want a BlackBerry. If you want a set of phones that will gladden the heart of your network admin without causing the staff to revolt, Windows Phone it is.  

5. Why you should buy a Windows Phone: Back a winner

The smartphone market is changing, and Windows Phone is - whisper it - doing okay. Nokia has around 10 percent of the market in countries like the UK. That might not sound like much, but with the exception of Apple and Samsung every other phone maker in the world would love that share of the market. And with the Microsoft purchase likely to happen in the middle of next year Nokia will get the backing of a company with extremely deep pockets and a desire to establish Windows Phone. There will also be clarity of purpose and strategy.

Plus the key market growth area is at the budget end, and no-one is better placed to win that battle than Nokia.

Expect BlackBerry and many of the less glamorous Android makers to bow out of the market, but Nokia and Windows Phone 8 will keep going strong.

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